Food is an important part of our life. Before eating, prayers are offered in gratitude to God. The morning litany in school that we spoke with sincerity, "Give us today our daily bread" has become a trifle dicey nowadays, giving rise to bile and acid reflux at the breakfast table.
The chotahaziri spread was so convenient and welcomed by all a fortnight ago,even the most fussy members of the family would welcome soft sandwiches, crisp toast with melted butter, pav bhaaji, bread upma, bread pakora or bread cutlets. The first meal of the day, where one is supposed to feed like a king, is a nightmare now. People are shunning bread with the same alacrity as they were paranoid about a certain brand of noodles last year. Statutory warning should not be printed only on cigarette packs but on loaves too - Bread is injurious to health!!
The locally produced pizza bases and burger buns, on which depended my fun evenings when the maid had absconded, are on the list producing terror and hysteria. The winter night with soup and garlic bread is of stuff dreams are made of.
Just when pesticides, sprays, oxytocin, artificial preservatives, artificial dyes used to colour clothes were creeping into our culinary vocabulary, two possible carcinogen and thyroid affecting substances have been added to our ever expanding wordrobe of chemicals. The latest are potassium iodate and potassium bromate casting serious aspersions on food safety. These twin substances are flour treatment agents, banned in several foreign countries but then safety standards for food products is not an issue with us. We are like this only!
Even the mightiest and richest cannot ensure purity in food. Either they will be chasing deadlines and multiplying wealth or they can hire a manager, keeping an obsessive (electronic) eye on the chef. The chef has to make sure that the whole process of producing, buying and cooking leads to a chemical free, saatvik menu. The super duper wealthy men are capable of buying a farm, growing their own organic food in order to lead a canker free healthy life.
The moot question is regarding those humble weaklings down the ladder in social rank, trying to make their ends meet by working hard throughout, to break bread at the end of a gruelling day. Can they afford to be obsessive about every morsel they eat? After all, if eating bread is fraught with dangers then why shun chewing gutkha, tobacco, pan masala or why not get sozzled on country liquor which gives vibrant colour, energy and relief from dismal life.
Food, especially, bread has influenced history. Those who are familiar with the French Revolution know how bread accelerated its course. On 5th october, 1789, a young woman struck a marching drum, infuriated by the chronic shortage and high price of bread. Other women in the marketplaces joined and the number swelled to thousands, marching to the palace of Versailles. According to Linda Civitello in, 'Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People', bread, in french cuisine, was tied up with the national identity. "Bread was considered a public service necessary to keep the people from rioting" .
Miguel de Cervantes had given bread an emotional weight, writing in Don Quixote, “With bread, all sorrows are less”.
With us, it is just the opposite. Bread around us is multiplying malignancy while the concerned authorities are benign about it.